It’s mid-October – time to make the Christmas cakes.
Last week I bought the candied fruit, raisins, dried cranberries, dates, orange marmalade, a bottle of dark rum (the cost of everything had increased but I’m not complaining – I paid the bill and carried on).
Next I checked the recipe and made sure I had enough eggs, flour, brown and white sugar, baking powder and baking soda, vanilla, almond extract, spices (ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, clove), molasses and baking chocolate.
I marinated the fruit in rum for a week – the amount of time it takes for a half-bottle of rum to be absorbed into the fruit (none left in the bottom of the big covered Tupperware container I use for that purpose). Today, I decided, was Christmas cake making day.
I started by lining the pans with parchment (holding it in place with wooden clothes pins until the batter was added and smoothed). I measured out the dry ingredients, then the wet – both need large mixing bowls to hold the quantity I make.
I dumped the marinated fruit into my large lobster pot sitting in the sink (so I can reach in to mix the batter ingredients). I added half the dry ingredients but the mixture is so heavy that I called a friend to help (yesterday, she’d offered to do the mixing/stirring if I needed her – my right wrist can no longer handle the weight of the mixture – even wearing a splint my wrist becomes quite painful). The ingredients have to be mixed by hand because the mixture is way too heavy for a machine – it takes a sturdy wooden spoon or stiff spatula to do the job along with a lot of elbow grease). We added the rest of the dry ingredients, then poured in small batches of the wet until we had batter and fruit well mixed.
Last year I had a disaster – I’d overfilled the loaf pans and batter spilled into my oven creating a lot of smoke and a big mess. We were careful not to overfill the pans – looks like we put just the right amount into each – nine 2 lb loaf pans, six small ones. The cake bakes in a 300° oven for close to two hours – you can tell by the smell when it’s time to check on their done-ness. No spilling over this year.
I just had to cut a slice from one of the small cakes for quality control. Nice texture and nice taste.
I will now wrap the cakes in waxed paper, put each in a ziplock bag, and store them on the bottom shelf of my fridge for the next two months. That’s how long it takes for the moisture in the fruit to migrate into the cake. They’ll be given as holiday gifts!